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Speak Business English Like an American Lesson 13 Idioms and Expressions Test

Speak Business English Like an American Lesson 13 Idioms and Expressions Test

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LESSON 13 – Discussing a Mistake


Chris and Todd work for Alpine Design, a furniture manufacturer. When Todd accidentally orders the wrong amount of wood, his boss, Chris, warns him to be more careful in the future.

Chris: Todd, we got our shipment of wood yesterday. We’re short by 18 tons.

Todd: Our wood supplier must’ve made a mistake. I could’ve sworn that I ordered the right amount.

Chris: You’d better go back and double-check your order.

Todd: Oops, you’re right. I accidentally ordered two tons instead of twenty. No big deal. I’ll just put in another order.

Chris: When filling out order forms, you need to dot your i’s and cross your t’s. You shouldn’t be making careless mistakes like this.

Todd: I just forgot to add a zero after the two. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. No need to blow things out of proportion.

Chris: This is very serious. Now we won’t have enough wood to finish the furniture order we got from La-Z Boy.

Todd: Okay, sorry I dropped the ball.

Chris: Todd, this may be a bitter pill to swallow, but your work lately hasn’t been up to scratch. You’ve really been asleep at the wheel!


  • I could’ve sworn that…

 I really thought that; I was convinced that

EXAMPLE: You didn’t know we already hired somebody for the sales director position? I could’ve sworn that I told you.

NOTE: “Sworn” is the past perfect tense of “swear.”

  • no big deal

 it’s not a problem

EXAMPLE: Our coffee machine broke? No big deal. Our employees will just have to go to Starbucks until we get a new one.

  • (to) dot your i’s and cross your t’s

 to be very careful; to pay attention to details

EXAMPLE: When preparing financial statements, accuracy is very important. Be sure to dot your i’s and cross your t’s.

  • (to) make a mountain out of a molehill

 to make a big deal out of something small or insignificant

EXAMPLE: Don’t be angry at your boss for not complimenting you on your presentation. He probably just forgot. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.

  • (to) blow things out of proportion

 to exaggerate; to make more of something than one should

EXAMPLE: Our CEO says that if we don’t meet our sales target for the month, our company is going to go out of business. He’s probably blowing things out of proportion.

  • (to) drop the ball

 to make a mistake; to fail; to do something poorly

EXAMPLE: You forgot to submit the budget? You really dropped the ball!

ORIGIN: When a football player drops the ball, his team may lose the chance to score.

  • bitter pill to swallow

 bad news; something unpleasant to accept

EXAMPLE: After Gina spent her whole summer working as an intern for American Express, failing to get a full-time job offer from the company was a bitter pill to swallow.

  • up to scratch

 good; at the expected level

EXAMPLE: Your customer service call center isn’t up to scratch. They put me on hold for 45 minutes!

NOTE: You will usually hear this expression in the negative: not up to scratch.

  • asleep at the wheel

 not performing well; neglecting responsibilities; not paying attention to what’s going on

EXAMPLE: The dental hygienist was asleep at the wheel. She accidentally left a big piece of dental floss in the patient’s mouth!

SYNONYMS: asleep at the switch; out to lunch

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